Archive for the ‘ronald reagan’ Tag
Dutch, as his father liked to call him, would have turned 100 this Sunday (February 6th). The world has changed greatly in 100 years but the impact the 40th president had will certainly be felt for 100 more.
There have been numerous articles written this week about the Gipper as the century mark of his birth is celebrated. I will not try to emulate the words of those who can write considerably better than this humble writer or those who knew him personally. But there are some thoughts I would like to share about the Hollywood actor who led America out of a deep recession and into a period of prosperity that let us all remember that, you and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
One of the many things Reagan is known for is his enduring optimism. Living in Hollywood while being an actor then having a high-paying job speaking for General Electric seems to put in place a good foundation for keeping optimism, but Reagan seems to have been optimistic long before this time. To say that Reagan loved to talk about his childhood would be an understatement. He even said about his childhood, “it was the happiest time of my life (37).” This is strange because his family was very poor and his father was an alcoholic. But in his own words he explained his optimism, “my optimism comes not just from my strong faith in God but from my strong and enduring faith in man.” His optimism was something that caught on with the rest of America and culminated in one of the most famous presidential TV ads that was ever run, “It’s Morning in America again.” Reagan was driven by results and in his 1980 campaign he simply asked if people were better off than they were four years ago before Jimmy Carter was elected. In 1984 he asked the same question and America was a lot better off than it was in 1980. Perhaps nothing can reveal that better than the fact that he won an unprecedented 49 states in the 1984 election.
There have been seemingly an infinite number of biographies on Reagan and there is one notion they all seem to find. He is extremely difficult to truly understand. Lou Cannon wrote three books on the president and even he said, “I regard Reagan as a puzzle. I am still trying to understand the man (7).” Not even his wife Nancy seemed to be able to know his inner feelings. She felt that he let her closer than anyone but he still kept somewhat of a guard up. I believe this had positive and negative effects. First, it seems strange that the man called “the great communicator” did not have any close friends and had dysfunctional (to put it lightly) relationships with his children. In a bizarre way this seemed to increase his appeal. Americans viewed him as a regular guy who had problems relating to his children like many parents. Another interesting aspect that relates to his separation from others is that he seemed to handle the pressure and responsibility of being president with ease. This is not meant to imply that he did not respect the position. In fact it can be argued that no other president respected the presidency as much as he did. Many conclusions can be arrived at to explain why he was able to handle the presidency with such simplicity but none of them seem conclusive. This is just another of the many reasons we struggle to understand him.
So why was Reagan so appealing? Why even to this day do Republicans, especially those running for office, proclaim their loyalty to the man who ran against the Republican establishment? It seems that there should be a simple answer but it is very hard to find.
Maybe it is because he accomplished so much. I have written this whole entry thus far without even mentioning the Cold War. That is because for my generation the Soviet Union is a hockey team we beat in the 1980 Olympics. When Reagan took office the Soviet Union was a great threat and he did more to bring down the evil empire than basically anyone. He had a vision of ending communism in the Soviet Union and he saw this come to fruition during his life. Reagan was not nearly as revered during his presidency as he is now. He was considered an idiot who was out of touch. How could a man who was an average student at mediocre Eureka College know which economic policies were right for the United States? This elitist point of view was held by pundits and politicians on both sides of the isle. Perhaps Reagan’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane said it best, “He knows so little, and accomplishes so much (9).”
There is so much more to Reagan than “Reaganomics” or any one policy he had. There is more than a great story about a self-made man who was raised in the Midwest, went to Hollywood, and then the White House. Reagan put faith back into America. He allowed Americans to remember why our country is so great. “They called it the Reagan Revolution. Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.”
Ronald Reagan was a special man and there will never be another like him. America is blessed to have had his leadership and we can only hope that in the next 100 years another will come along that will have nearly the positive impact of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” -Ronald Reagan